Common Allergy Myths

By: Nicole Mezo, PA-C

We’ve found there are a lot of allergy misconceptions out there. We wanted to dispel the most common allergy myths we hear in our clinics.

MYTH #1:  A shellfish allergy means I’m allergic to iodine and therefore, I can’t get films with contrast.

FACT:  The truth is that allergic reactions to shellfish are caused by the specific protein found in shellfish called tropomyosin.  People who are allergic to shellfish have the same risk of reacting to contrast dyes as the general population (approximately 3%).

MYTH #2:  My dog is hypoallergenic; therefore, I won’t react to it.

FACT:  There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog as allergic patients can react to the protein in dog urine (Can f 5), skin (dander), and saliva (Can f 1).  Animal fur itself does not contain an allergen; however, it can collect pollen and mold spores.  One study from Detroit, Michigan showed the level of Can f 1 was no different in homes with hypoallergenic dogs compared to homes of “regular” dogs.  Another study out of the Netherlands suggested that hypoallergenic dogs had more Can f 1 than regular dogs and demonstrated that their homes had no less of the Can f 1 protein than homes with regular breeds.

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MYTH #3:  Penicillin allergic patients will always be allergic to it.

FACT:  Approximately 90% of patients with a diagnosis of penicillin allergy can indeed lose their allergy.  About 80% of patients with “true allergy” will lose their allergy after 10 years.  Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers can determine if you are still allergic to penicillin with skin testing and an oral challenge (see Blog dated 7/24/2017). Talk to your provider if you are interested in penicillin testing. 

MYTH #4:  People can be allergic to cigarette smoke and chlorine.

FACT:  Cigarette smoke and chlorine are irritants which can cause symptoms like headaches, nasal congestion, and runny noses. However they are not allergens.  With allergies, the body develops antibodies (IgE) which are blood proteins produced in response to the allergen (this does not occur with irritants). 

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MYTH #5:  Egg allergic patients can not receive an influenza vaccine.

FACT:  Patients with egg allergy (even anaphylaxis) can indeed receive the influenza vaccine (the flu shot).  The amount of egg in the vaccine is minimal, and an egg allergy is NOT a contraindication for receiving the influenza vaccine.  However, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends that egg allergic patients should receive the influenza vaccine in a medical setting that has a healthcare provider who can “recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.”  As always, please talk with your provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the influenza vaccine.